I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dead or Alive -- Nude

Yesterday, my father approached me with some very sad news: Pete Burnssinger/songwriter and frontman of 80s Hi-NRG band Dead or Alive – died from a cardiac arrest on October 23th (Sunday), and he was just 57 years old. Needless to say, I became instantly sad.

Now, I know very well this blog is about Japanese music, but anchored by the fact that Pete Burns and Dead or Alive were very famous in Japan during the mid-to-late 80s, I think this space can welcome my little homage to the now deceased Pete Burns.

Dead or Alive experienced worldwide fame between 1985 and 1987, after working with famous British production team Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) in some catchy Hi-NRG cuts like “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”, “In Too Deep”, “Brand New Lover”, “Something in My House”, “I’ll Save You All My Kisses”, among others, that resulted in two studio albums and one compilation: “Youthquake”, “Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know” and “Rip It Up”, respectively.

After that, even though their popularity in homeland England and in the United States decreased, the band still had one last stronghold: the distant Japan, where Dead or Alive and their Hi-NRG sound – there called Eurobeat – were very loved.

With that in mind, it was no surprise when 1988’s “Nude”, a self-produced album with no touches from SAW, became a huge success in Japan, but not so much in the English-speaking world. It also helped that lead single “Turn Around and Count 2 Ten” was a true blast of joy, and in a strange way, very similar to the kind of Eurobeat songs that were imported by Japan from Italy at the time.

Here in Brazil, it was second single “Come Home (With Me Baby)” that made similar success among clubbers. The song was more in touch with the Latin Freestyle genre, which was very popular in Rio de Janeiro’s lower class neighborhoods, for example. I think some of my older cousins must probably know this song.

As for my personal favorites from “Nude”, I’d say they are the bouncy “I Don’t Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, with its dated – yet charming – feel, and the overtly dramatic album closers “I Cannot Carry On” and "My “Forbidden Love” – both of them a mix of Pete’s theatrical singing with some stormy late 80s synths.

Unfortunately, after some time, Pete became more known for all the bad plastic surgeries and reality TV appearances than for the music he created. His outrageously flamboyant looks were far from being tame, and it probably didn’t help his career in the music industry that extreme sincerety and sarcasm were also a big part of his personality. Nevertheless, his talent – beautiful, strong and full of personality vocals, coupled with an accurate sense for catchy melodies and clever lyrics – was truly one of a kind.

The “Nude” album was released in December 1988, and, apparently, scored a #1 position on the Oricon chart (I’d love to find some numbers to measure the success of Dead or Alive in Japan at the time, but I wasn’t able to). All songs were written by Pete Burns, while music and arrangement were done by Pete and Dead or Alive.


  1. Hello, Marcos.

    Yes, yet another singer has left this mortal coil in an untimely fashion unfortunately. You can only imagine how many times our group here danced to "You Spin Me Round" in the discos on a Friday night.

    I cannot give you numbers about how Pete Burns and his band did in Japan but on the other SNS I belong to, Mixi, over there, I'm part of the 1980s music community. And in the past few days, there has been a lot of tribute to Burns in the form of entries with imported YouTube videos including the ones that you have included above.

    1. Hi, J-Canuck.

      "You Spin me Round" is a classic. The song goes on relentless with that progressive electronic Hi-NRG sound. It's also a very maximalist approach to pop, since there's virtually no room left for breathing.

      In Japan's case, "Nude" was a particularly successful album. I've seen some places saying "Turn Around And Count 2 Ten" stayed at #1 in Japan for 17 weeks, but I don't think they're talking about Oricon.

      I've been checking the Oricon charts from the 80s, and Dead or Alive didn't make an appearance in any of the singles entries (I still have to check the album entries to see if "Nude" was on there with the biggest sellers of 1988 or 1989, though).


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